Reading list ideas relating to the North York Moors

- 22 March 2020 -

If you cannot travel to the places you love such as Coxwold in the North York Moors, then maybe staying at home and reading about the area is the next best thing. That way you can look ahead with anticipation to exploring when the current restrictions are relaxed… Here is our Coxwold reading list selection of half a dozen books about this wonderful corner of North Yorkshire. All are out of print but, if you are lucky, can be picked up on or via one of the many second hand or antiquarian bookshops in this area. If you come to stay with us at Coxwold Cottages, once this coronavirus crisis is over, then you will find a copy of Coxwoldshire and a standard edition of Tristram Shandy in our holiday cottage for your enjoyment. The other books we have in our private collection but we might let you have a peek if you ask really nicely! The books are listed in alphabetical order:

Coxwoldshire – A Local History of the Villages around Coxwold by the Husthwaite Local History Society (1992) . This is a great introduction to our part of the North York Moors from the ice age to the twentieth century. Comprising chapters written by a multitude of different contributors, all local to Coxwold village, this interesting book includes accounts of ancient landowners, Byland Abbey and Newburgh Priory, the impact of the Civil War and the Second World War on the area as well as a look at Coxwold’s most famous resident, Laurence Sterne, who was once vicar of Coxwold parish and who wrote much of Tristram Shandy whilst living at Shandy Hall in Coxwold. Sterne was buried three times (that will be the subject of a future blog!), although his final resting place is here, at Coxwold’s Church.

In Monks’ Land by Edmund Bogg (undated). Subtitled “Round About Coxwold, Byland and Rievaulx with 3 maps and 40 illustrations” and originally sold for the princely sum of threepence. This is one of those delightful period paperback guides to an area, written in the manner of the day, and containing lots of local history as well as fascinating old advertisements. One page that immediately caught our eye contained a list of places to stay. At the top of the list is: “Mrs Burnett, Ivy Lea, Coxwold” who provided accommodation comprising: “1 Sitting Room, 2 Bedrooms, Bathroom, W.C., Hot and Cold Water. Pony and Trap, Etc.” Ivy Lea was the original name of The Forge where we are located, showing that our property has always been noted for hospitality! We are delighted to still be considered a top place to stay in Coxwold, although I am afraid we don’t offer a Pony and Trap these days!

In Well Beware by Geoffrey Smith (1978) contains the story of Newburgh Priory and the Belasyse Family from 1145 to 1977. It is a complex and fascinating story including its dissolution as a Priory in 1539 via the family’s complex role in the English Civil War period when the 1st Viscount Fauconberg fought for the King, yet the 2nd Viscount married Cromwell’s daughter! She reputedly brought her father’s headless corpse back to Newburgh where it was buried to this day in a vault within the roof. The Wombwell’s inherited Newburgh by marriage and George Wombwell’s experiences in the fabled Charge of the Light Brigade, when he had two horses shot from under him, was captured and escaped, add an almost Boy’s Own adventure to the family history. It is the Wombwell family motto that is the title of the book. Maybe that motto has even more relevance in today’s troubled times…

Lost Houses of York and the North Riding by Edward Waterson and Peter Meadows (1990). With a foreword by the late, lamented Giles Worsley (who was Architectural Editor at Country Life and whose family own nearby Hovingham Hall). Reminiscent of the ground breaking tome, The Destruction of the Country House: 1875-1975 by Strong, Binney and Harris, this is an intriguing look at the significant halls and mansion houses we have lost in North Yorkshire – although traces of many can still be found today if you look hard enough and arm yourself with an Ordnance Survey map. It might be a thin, paperback book, yet within its pages are haunting photos of each property in its glory days as well as a brief history and description. Featuring from our locality are the likes of nearby Gilling Wood Hall, Harome Manor House, Haxby Hall, Huby Hall and Thirkleby Park. All now sadly lost to history.

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Martin Rowson (2010). This edition of Tristram Shandy is not by the original author, Coxwold’s very own Laurence Sterne, whose one-time residence of Shandy Hall lies just a 5 minute stroll from us at Coxwold Cottages. Instead, this version is a graphic novel interpretation of Tristram Shandy by the celebrated cartoonist and illustrator Martin Rowson. This is not just an excellent adaptation of the famous original book, it is also considered a landmark comic masterpiece in its own right. Sterne’s original is one of English literature’s most curious, complex and comic novels – perfectly suited to the distinctive, anarchic style of Rowson. I was lucky enough to listen to a fascinating, insightful and amusing talk by Martin at Shandy Hall in September 2018 where he kindly signed our copy.

The Parish Churches in the ancient Vale of Mowbray by Keith Surgey and David Trotman (1984). This book, with its enormous page size opening in a landscape format, was obviously a labour of love for the author and illustrator. Each church in the Vale of Mowbray has a pen and ink illustration alongside a short history with lots of obscure facts and personal reminiscences. All the local churches are here, including Huthwaite, Kilburn and Coxwold of course. Also included are the Chapel at Scot’s Corner and the majestic ruins of Byland Abbey – both of which are excellent walking destinations if setting out from Coxwold. This book is a wonderful, ideosycratic survey that provides the reader with the inspiration to visit each and every one – although the enormous size of the book makes it impossible to take with you in your ruck sack! We are lucky enough to own number 511 of just 1000 copies that were printed.

Happy reading! We hope to welcome you to Coxwold as our guests very soon, whether at our luxury holiday cottage or boutique shepherd’s hut. Take care…

Books from our Coxwold reading list, including Tristram Shandy!
Books from our Coxwold reading list, including Tristram Shandy!
Martin Rowson's version of Tristram Shandy, signed at Shandy Hall
Martin Rowson’s version of Tristram Shandy, signed at Shandy Hall
The Coxwold Cottages reading list
The Coxwold Cottages reading list